BOCA RATON, Fla.- Following a tough 2014 season, the Florida Atlantic University men's soccer team has been hard at work as they build toward a successful 2015 campaign.
"It's been a positive preseason for us. With the returners we have coming back, they bring us experience, maturity and leadership," said FAU head men's soccer coach Kos Donev. "The newcomers have come in prepared and they have brought some good leadership as well."
The most competitive position on the squad may be the goalkeepers. Juniors Phillip Hitpass and Josh Nolan, and freshman Luis Aranzazu are all competing for the starting role. Hitpass is a transfer from Auburn University at Montgomery where he helped the Warhawks to an NAIA title game appearance. Aranzazu redshirted in 2014.
"We've got solid goalkeepers," Donev said. "It's a very good group."
The Owls will be experienced along the backline, with five players who saw action in at least 12 matches last season.
"Braxton Fuster has stepped up as a leader and a captain and has put the team on his shoulders," said Donev. "Owen McCorkle has shown great improvement this preseason. He'll be one of our outside defenders, he's playing with a lot more consistency, confidence and maturity.
The midfield is one of the deepest spots on the roster. While Coach Donev credits the returning players with grabbing the reins of the team, a few newcomers have caught his eye.
"All of the returners have looked very impressive, not just during the game itself, but the way they have taken the lead and taken ownership of the team." Donev said. "Among the newcomers, Aaron Laranetto has shown signs of being able to be a playmaker as he progresses and matures this season. Oliver Powers has done very well coming from the outside midfield."
The forward position is probably the biggest concern for the Owls in 2015, as FAU will have to overcome the loss of last season's leading scorer, Ryan Price. However, it will feature a strong group of returners and Donev feels that depth and versatility will help overcome the loss of Price.
"Ryan Price will be tough to replace, but I think we have better depth," said Donev. "If we want to move a striker to a different position, we can put someone up front who can still get the job done, so I think we'll be a little better."
One of the players Donev expects to help make up for the loss of Price is senior Ronald Garcia.
"He's a player that we can really count on."
As for overall team goals, it's quite simple; to get better every day.
"The goal for the team is to build on what we've done so far in the preseason, take ownership in the team and to try and outdo ourselves each and every day."
FAU will open the 2015 season at UCF on Friday, Aug. 28. The Owls will return home Thursday, Sept. 3 when FAU plays host to Jacksonville at 6 p.m. Live stats of the JU game will be available at fausports.com.